Council U-turn for Freedom Camping bylaw

Auckland Council has done a complete 360° turn on its Freedom Camping bylaw proposals, deciding to leave things as they are while staff prepare a completely new proposal.

It also made changes to buy itself an extension of time –  the new bylaw was to replace legacy Auckland bylaws in October next year, but Council must now have the new bylaw in place before October, 2022.

The process of developing a freedom camping bylaw under the Freedom Camping Act began two years ago. The bylaw’s aim was to enable proactive management and enforcement of freedom camping in Auckland.

The process proved problematic and controversial, and has been the subject of numerous stories in Hibiscus Matters to date.

At last month’s Governing Body meeting, Council resolved that the provisions currently in place will remain in force until a new bylaw is made, giving staff time to come up with new proposals.

Council directed staff to advise on potential elements of a new Statement of Proposal such as prohibiting freedom camping not only at the sites recommended by the Hearing Panel, but also at 61 further sites proposed through public submissions.

They will also consider a general rule that regulates freedom camping in other areas – such as outside residential homes.

Mayor Phil Goff and Crs Linda Cooper and Penny Hulse were to meet with Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis last week to discuss the problems Council has come up against in making its bylaw, caused by the provisions of the Freedom Camping Act, and canvass possible solutions. This includes potential law reform.

“I am hopeful Ministerial discussions will identify better arrangements for addressing the legitimate needs of freedom campers. Nevertheless, this may take some time to implement. In the meantime, we need to develop a bylaw that will attract broad community support. This entails directing officers to start preparations for the development of a new statement of proposal,” Mayor Phil Goff’s report said.

Hibiscus & Bays Local Board chair Julia Parfitt and deputy chair Janet Fitzgerald made a presentation to last month’s Governing Body meeting to reiterate the community’s concerns; enforcement of existing Freedom Camping rules is a big issue on the Hibiscus Coast, especially over summer. They were therefore pleased to hear that Council will set up a programme of interns/students, who will be trained to provide enforcement. Local boards will be consulted as the process of putting together a new Statement of Proposal unfolds.

Although the bylaw must be in place by October 2022, Council hopes to have it in force earlier than that, by the summer of 2020/21.

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